Over the weekend, we hosted some friends for dinner, my husband’s oldest friend, Bobby, and his wife Marta. We prepared a typical summer meal: grilled meat, salad, a vegetable dish, bread. My husband likes to grill, especially since he recently bought a charcoal grill after using a gas grill for years. When he’s grilling for guests, I take charge for the sides, so of course, there is always a salad.
A salad is the easiest way to bring raw food into your meal. Recently, I stayed up late to watch a PBS program by Dr. Joel Fuhrman titled “Three Steps to Incredible Health.” You can see information and a couple of short video clips here. If you find this program on your local PBS station (try around fund-raising time), it’s worth watching. During this program, he often asks his watchers to remember that “the salad is the main dish.” We occasionally eat salads as a main dish, but more often they are a side dish, which I think is a good place to start.
Most people can make a decent salad, but how about a great salad? If you are serving salad most days of the week like me, you need some variety. I tend to throw in whatever I have: greens (try different kinds and mix them up), cabbage, tomatoes, cucumbers, and carrots are my staples. Other great salad fixings include broccoli and cauliflower (raw or cooked), nuts, seeds, leftover beans, corn, avocado, sprouts, fruit; you get the idea. Pile your plate with whatever raw salad fixings you have on hand. Need salad dressing? My friend Alicia L. (I have three friends named Alicia) told me her kids eat salad with lemon juice as a dressing, so now we do too sometimes. Want something creamy? Mix a little citrus juice with plain yogurt (borrowed from the MyPlate recipes, which I will write about soon).
For this meal, I also made tabouli, a Middle Eastern dish sometimes called Parsley Salad. Since the bulgur wheat or sprouted wheat berries are partially cooked, it is not technically raw, but all the veggies and herbs are raw and they give it a really fresh taste. I used parsley and mint from our garden, so this is another great use for Fresh Cut Herbs. You’ll find the recipe below; I’ve served this a couple of times at grilling events at our house, and it always gets compliments and questions, such as: What are those little brown things? Bulgur wheat can be found at a really great price in the international foods aisle of your local supermarket.
I also served a third raw element with this meal: toppings! This is one of the easiest ways to add raw food (and fermented foods, but more on this later) to your meals. To complement the grilled meats, I served chopped onion and chopped cilantro. These can be sprinkled on top, served on the side, or added to the salad, according to each person’s preferences. I even put a little of each on some bread with a piece of meat like a mini sandwich.
What else could I have used? Tomatoes, avocado, jalapeños or other peppers, and oregano come to mind. The possibilities are endless. All of these also work as toppings for grilled meat tacos, which is what we ate with some of the leftovers. When you are serving tacos, don’t forget to offer a variety of toppings, including raw greens or cabbage. You can also combine these toppings into traditional Mexican side dishes: tomatoes, onions, jalapeños, and cilantro chopped and combined is known as pico de gallo. Smash avocado with jalapeños and optional onions, tomatoes, or cilantro and you’ve got guacamole.
As I mentioned in my post Local Food in School Cafeterias, raw food toppings are great with many different cooked dishes. We especially like them on top of a bowl of freshly cooked beans or tortilla soup. I’ll share these recipes in a later post, during which I will introduce my variation on the MyPlate: The Bowl.
I have so much to say about incorporating raw food into your meals, that I have to save some for another post. Meantime, here is the Tabouli recipe, adjusted slightly from the one in the book Nourishing Traditions.
½ cup bulgur wheat or sprouted wheat berries
1 – 3 bunches of parsley
½ cup fresh mint leaves
1 – 2 bunches green onions
1 – 3 tomatoes, chopped
1 peeled cucumber
½ cup or more lemon or lime juice
½ cup or more extra virgin olive oil
Soak bulgur or sprouted wheat berries for about 10 minutes in enough warm—not hot—water to cover. Pour into a strainer, rinse, and squeeze dry with your hands. Chop parsley, mint, and green onions in the food processor. Chop tomato and cucumber into very small squares with a knife. Mix all ingredients. Cover and refrigerate several hours before serving.
Note: the herbs and onions can be adjusted to your liking. I process twice the amount I need and freeze half for next time.
Ann Kroeker hosts a weekly Food on Fridays Link up, so I have connected there, where you will find many links somehow (either casually or directly) related to food and recipes.
I have also added this post to the Ultimate Recipe Swap hosted by Jessica at life as mom. This week’s theme is Potluck.